2005 Call To Commemoration

Annual Law Day Dinner
Washington Bar Association and Washington Bar Association Legal Fund, Inc.

The theme of the 2005 Law Day was
Charles Hamilton Houston's Legacy to the Bar: Serving The Community, Building A Future

As the second term of President George W. Bush begins, his administration has acted vigorously to enact a myriad of policy changes and legislation that will have a sweeping effect on the fabric of our society. These changes are broad and range from social security to tort reform and many more. During this process, we as lawyers and equal rights advocates must stay alert and continue to monitor and vigorously defend against any arguments and attacks on valuable programs and laws that help create and protect equal and fruitful opportunities for all citizens. One method by which legal scholars, educators and legislators can review proposed legislation and policy changes is to conduct a series of symposia that can serve to mobilize the greater population to analyze individually and collectively proposed legislation and to raise appropriate questions as to whether these proposals will better or worsen conditions for our people in particular, and our society in general. And, after a thorough analysis of legislation and measuring any potential harm, we can take necessary action to protect our communities.

Just last month, in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, during the National Bar Association Gertrude Rush Mid-Year Conference Presidential Showcase, a collaboration of local lawyers and doctors, presented their Third Annual Law and Medicine Symposium. The program included a series of panels and debates discussing pending tort reform legislation and healthcare disparities in our communities. This discussion was billed as the big showdown between the lawyers and doctors. At first, there was a battle -- doctors contended that lawyers are putting doctors out of business by pushing medical liability insurance premiums to an unbearable figure by obtaining substantial awards for aggrieved patients. The lawyers, however, effectively countered, that it is no fault of lawyers, but rather, the egregious and incorrectly executed medical procedures of some doctors that harm patients. It is this unnecessary harm that results in lawsuits and adverse jury verdicts for those doctors. At the end of the day, participants remembered why we were there -- that our two professions were joined in an effort to help improve the health and well-being of our community. Many ultimately agreed that it is not the fault of good doctors or good attorneys that has resulted in the current crisis in medical malpractice insurance. Instead, it may be the result of the insurance companiesí faulty investment practices which increase the cost of liability insurance for doctors. The government may need to enact legislation or rulemaking to control insurance companies' bad business practices.

Since the creation of the Washington Bar Association in 1925, it has been committed to the principles of equal access and justice for all, and has promoted the profound concept espoused by Charles Hamilton Houston, that lawyers should be social engineers. To that end, the Washington Bar has sponsored a myriad of programs this bar year. For example, the Bar co-sponsored and helped to program the above-mentioned symposium and its members were active participants in those discussions. Also, the Bar was honored to have Professor Sheryll Cashin of Georgetown University of School of Law deliver the Founders'Lecture on the history and current status of our education system in the context of Brown v. Board of Education. The Honorable Theodore Newman was honored with the Ollie May Cooper Award. While accepting his accolades, Judge Newman inspired the Bar with a passionate talk that was very insightful, and which motivated members to continue the yet unfinished work of Brown.

Tonight, we bestow the Washington Bar Association's highest award, the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit, on two gifted litigators. Attorney Jack H. Olender embodies the ideals of Charles Hamilton Houston's commitment of giving back. He and his wife, Lovell, founded the Olender Foundation, which serves our community by promoting education and equal justice. Likewise, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., also known as Trial Attorney Extraordinaire, exemplified Houstonís principle of being a true social engineer. Mr. Cochran, a zealous advocate for justice, was an unparalleled civil and criminal trial attorney, who was true to his old law firm's motto "preparation, preparation, preparation." Mr. Olender's and Mr. Cochran's commitment to legal excellence and concern for human rights and equal justice, throughout their legal careers, are undoubtedly a manifestation of the principles of Charles Hamilton Houston. Our keynote speaker, the Honorable Rodney E. Slater, is an extraordinary attorney and former Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation, appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton. Mr. Slater successfully implemented policies, which enhanced a safer, more efficient and more environmentally-sound worldwide transportation infrastructure. It shall be written in our chronicles, that these lawyers were notable persons who effectuated positive change in our communities.

As we celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Washington Bar Association, we must remember and actively continue to pay tribute to our legal giants who paved the way for our future, and to continue to recognize our current leaders who hold fast to the Houstonian Principles of Jurisprudence. Without these magnificent lawyers playing their critical role in our society, our lives would be darkened and our future would be lost.

Kevin D. Judd
Vice President and Chairman of the Board

May 7, 2005